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In re C.L.S.

Supreme Court of Vermont

January 10, 2020

In re C.L.S., Juvenile

          On Appeal from Superior Court, Chittenden Unit, Family Division Thomas Carlson, J.

          Sarah Star, Middlebury, for Appellant Mother.

          Allison N. Fulcher of Martin & Delaney Law Group, Barre, for Appellant Father.

          Thomas J. Donovan, Jr., Attorney General, Montpelier, and Jody A. Racht, Assistant Attorney General, Waterbury, for Appellee State.

          Michael Rose, St. Albans, for Appellee Juvenile.

          PRESENT: Reiber, C.J., Robinson, Eaton, Carroll and Cohen, JJ.

          CARROLL, J.

         ¶ 1. Parents appeal the termination of their parental rights to son C.L.S., who is nearly two years old. We affirm.

         ¶ 2. C.L.S. was born in February 2018. During mother's last trimester of pregnancy, hospital staff reported to the Department for Children and Families (DCF) that mother had repeatedly tested positive for illicit unprescribed substances. She missed numerous prenatal and medication-assisted-treatment appointments during her pregnancy. She declined inpatient treatment or a referral to a substance-abuse clinic.

         ¶ 3. Parents are unmarried but lived together prior to C.L.S.'s birth. In early February 2018, a DCF caseworker went to their home. Father answered the door and reported that mother was inside sleeping. He refused to wake mother up and would not let the caseworker into the home. The DCF caseworker observed that father's eyes were "pinpoint." DCF made several further unsuccessful attempts to meet with mother prior to C.L.S.'s birth.

         ¶ 4. DCF has been involved with both parents in the past. Mother has a history of substance abuse and mental health issues, and her parental rights to her first child were terminated in 2006. Father was involved with DCF from 2010 to 2012 due to his ex-wife's substance abuse. He worked with DCF to retain custody of three of his children, all of whom are now adults.

         ¶ 5. At birth, C.L.S. weighed less than five pounds, had an underdeveloped esophagus, and was in withdrawal from having illegal drugs in his system. He initially required a feeding tube. Mother also tested positive for numerous unprescribed illegal drugs. DCF took C.L.S into custody on an emergency basis on the day he was born and filed a petition alleging that C.L.S. was a child in need of care or supervision (CHINS).

         ¶ 6. A temporary care hearing began the following day. The parents denied that C.L.S. was CHINS, sought a conditional order giving custody to father, and requested a contested temporary care hearing. The court continued custody with DCF but permitted parents to have unsupervised contact with C.L.S. while he remained in the hospital. C.L.S. was subsequently discharged to a foster home and father filed a motion requesting parent-child contact and unsupervised visitation.

         ¶ 7. On March 15, the court began a contested temporary care hearing, which did not conclude due to lack of time. A DCF caseworker testified that she had concerns regarding substance abuse by father. These were based on her observation that he had pinpoint pupils when she visited parents' home and his refusal to undergo requested urinalysis. The court ordered that father could have ...


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